Mirroring Mary — A Woman of Great Bravery and Faith


Mirroring Mary — A Woman of Great Bravery and Faith

Every Christmas, millions of people worldwide gather for the telling of the Nativity story. As magnificent as the story is, it is easy to mistakenly pass over the woman God called to birth the Messiah. Mary is a woman often admired for her bravery and loved for her unwavering devotion to God. She walked a difficult and lonely path, knowing how costly her submission would be. The virgin birth of her Son, Jesus, defied scientific logic. Mary is recognized most as the mother to God's only Son. But how much do we know about the details of her life and the uncertainty her young teenage heart must have carried?

Mary is recognized most as the mother to God's only Son. But how much do we know about the details of her life and the uncertainty her young teenage heart must have carried?

God chose Mary for the most important job in history—bringing the Savior, Jesus Christ, into the world. She was the perfect unlikely choice, which made her story even more remarkable. There was none more fitting than the one people would least expect.

Executive producer and director, Paul Joiner, crafted a script that highlighted the beauty, culture, pain, and complexities of the Nativity story. Why the Nativity? is a tangible representation of God sending His Son to earth. There are many nuances that connect the viewer to the humanity of Mary and Joseph. But perhaps casting the role of Mary and finding the young woman who would embody her character on camera and connect to her story was the most critical and strategic search for Joiner.

Rose Anaya

Twenty-year-old Rose Anaya, from San Diego, never expected to be considered for the role of Mary in the docudrama. Pursuing her bachelor’s degree in acting with an emphasis in musical theater at the University of California in Los Angeles, Anaya only dreamed of having the experience she was given shortly after entering her first year of college.

At a young age, Anaya starred in lead roles in nearly every theater production she participated in. Growing up in an artistic home surrounded by books, music, instruments, and crafts, she realized her favorite form of personal expression was through the storytelling of the arts, thus propelling her into her journey as an actress. However, the evolution of Anaya’s faith and talent was forged when she said, “Yes!” to the project that “saved [her] faith.”

“When I first went in for my interview, I was nervous. I was anxious that it would feel more like an interrogation than a conversation. But when Paul started talking to me about the film, my first impression was that he had a brilliant mind. He was very passionate and caring,” says Anaya. “There wasn't one moment in that audition room where I felt unheard or undervalued. And I think that's the first moment I felt a real passion for the project and a desire to want to be a part of it any way I could.”

Defying the stereotypes and limitations put on women in society, Mary’s role in the Nativity story would affect generations to come.

Like Anaya, we can learn much from Mary’s life as a young girl. Defying the stereotypes and limitations put on women in society, Mary’s role in the Nativity story would affect generations to come. What is remarkable about her bravery is how she displayed great faith in a moment where she held more questions than answers, and though logic and science could not make sense of it, she was promised to bring forth the ultimate Promise.

Anaya’s faith was strengthened after leaving her audition. Though she did not know if she received the part, she began praying and researching to learn the depths of who Mary was in the Bible. This is when something in her began to shift. For the first time in Anaya's life, Mary was not just a woman in a Bible story, but a woman of great faith and bravery whom she found to be in herself as well. She mirrored a version of Anaya that was calling her to greatness. Mary defied society’s deafening narrative of women being overlooked, just as Anaya was about to uncover in her own life.

“The more I talked about her, the more I realized I related to her,” says Anaya. “I think before this, I never really understood Mary. I never understood the trials and tribulations she went through or the social dilemmas that she encountered. I think that is one of the attributes I admire most about Mary; despite what she was going through and her struggles, she never let go of hope, which made me realize how realistic those circumstances are today. And I just felt a connection to her.”

Anaya has endured much pain and heartache of her own. As she read the script, there was a sense of understanding and familiarity with the lonely road Mary traveled. Perhaps that is why she instantly embodied the graceful stature that Mary would have likely carried. There was no forceful striving in her adaptation. Her scenes were enthralling, capturing the intrinsic humility and resilient spirit the Bible hints to us about Mary’s character. All those graced by her presence quickly recognized her talent and the compelling compassion she carried. There were many moments on set when what she was portraying felt as real as the air we breathe. It was as if Anaya had become the story.

Rose Anaya

In many traditional Nativity stories, the standard narrative is to go from the immaculate conception straight to the birth of Christ. And though we recognize the Wise Men and remember the shepherds, the journey of the in-between and the humanity of the people God chose to represent is often overlooked. In this adaptation, it is the vast moving components and impactful scenes in the script that lead to the pinnacle sequence in the film.

“I think one of my favorite scenes is the moment we see characters from different ethnicities, cultures, and economic backgrounds finally portrayed in this story, which is realistic because we wouldn't have a story without them. I love that we get to bring to light these characters that haven’t had their time to shine yet,” says Anaya. “Many people are quick to jump right into the Nativity scene, which is such a pinnacle moment in history. But it took God using all these other stories to make that history.”

God calling Mary only scratches the surface of the kind of magnitude this story possesses. God sent His only Son to save every nation; how significant it is to witness many cultures coming together on film to honor the coming of One who would one day save them.

Rose Anaya

Anaya’s creative partnership with 22-year-old actor Logan Polson, from Lynchburg, Virginia, resembled the innocent and unwavering love Mary and Joseph had for one another; thus this story takes viewers on a journey to discover the unknowns in their relationship.

The road leading to the Nativity sequence was strengthened by the unity and close relationship that the two main actors forged on set during the three months of production. The moment the baby portraying Jesus first cried on set, there was stillness and peace in the air that could not be explained nor fabricated.

“I think that [the Nativity sequence] was one of the few scenes where I didn’t even realize they were filming. I was completely immersed in the scene, and I felt like I was in that time era. Everything felt right, and we were just there feeling a sense of calmness and completeness,” says Anaya.

Anaya’s portrayal in these scenes transports viewers to a place where the story begins to move beyond the bounds of mere imagination. This intriguing cinematic journey connects people to the pain and wonder of Christ's birth. With Joiner’s direction, Anaya’s interpretation of Mary is expected to touch the hearts of many worldwide—as it did those on set.

“I think the first thing I’ll tell people about Paul is in a room full of people he makes every individual feel understood and important. He is a gift, and I have learned so much from him as an artist and human being,” says Anaya.

Why the Nativity? asks the bigger questions in life. Who are we, and what is the purpose of our existence? The story of the Nativity answers these questions with a depiction of the beginning of our eternal life— the birth of Jesus Christ. There is hope in this story and an invitation to perfect peace for all who seek to find Him.

“I’m not going to forget these people or this experience…this project has saved my faith,” says Anaya.

“The reason why we’re telling this story again is because it’s completely reimagined. This story brings a resolution to loneliness and invites the idea that loneliness isn’t always a bad thing. Because Mary, too, was lonely. But she never lost the hope that got her to the place we know her to be at today. She never lost hope in the Lord, and in her journey, she prevailed through it all. I hope people can find that same hope within this story.”

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